Wrestling: Penn State Nittany Lions obliterate American, 40-3
By ANDY ELDER
For The Express
UNIVERSITY PARK — Three senior starters. Three crossface cradles. Three pins. That was the symmetry of the Penn State wrestling team’s Senior Day celebration Sunday in front of its 55 th straight Rec Hall sellout crowd.
Vincenzo Joseph, Mark Hall and Shakur Rasheed recorded those three falls, and Roman Bravo-Young added another for good measure. Penn State (12-2, 8-1 B1G) won nine of 10 bouts to annihilate American (4-8) 40-3 in its dual meet finale.
“I think the guys are wrestling well. We’ll find out as we get to the Big Tens and nationals. I feel like they’re wrestling the best that they have and I think the attitude and the perspective is on point right now where we need to be,” Head Coach Cael Sanderson said.
Seven Nittany Lion wrestlers were honored during Senior Day festivities: Austin Clabaugh, Kyle Conel, Dominic Giannangeli, Hall, Joseph, Rasheed and Devin Schnupp.
“I was thinking the whole time I wanted to end my last match with a cradle just because that’s what got me rolling and that’s what the fans love,” Rasheed admitted.
“I shouldn’t have been thinking about it but Cenzo got a pin, cradle, and Hall got a pin, cradle. I can’t be the only senior not to pin. So, yeah, in my head I was like, ‘I’m getting a pin no matter what.’ Cradle is what I wanted.”
It took Joseph 4:00 to record his fall, and Hall needed 2:33. Rasheed wasted little time and secured his 1:04 into the bout. Bravo-Young didn’t use a crossface cradle, but he did put on a takedown clinic, securing nine of them, before decking his opponent in 2:10.
Other than the drama of how the seniors would bid adieu to the crowd, Jarod Verkleeren provided the crowd some theatrics as he upset No. 8 Kizhan Clarke. With the bout tied 1-1 and time winding down, Clarke shot in on a double leg, which Verkleeren countered on the edge of the mat for the winning takedown with just a couple ticks left on the clock.
“He kinda shot a double. I had my arm down ready and slid it up and kinda body locked him on the edge and got the takedown,” Verkleeren said. “We were in that body lock position a little bit earlier on in the match. I felt he was kind of hesitant a little there so I thought if we did get there again I could squeak one by.”
The win was a breakthrough for Verkleeren, who had lost in sudden victory the past two weekends to No. 1 Sammy Sasso of Ohio State and No. 6 Brayton Lee of Minnesota.
“Yeah, it feels good. I think I’m getting better, so that’s the goal, just keep getting better come March,” Verkleeren said. “I thought I could beat those guys so hopefully I get another shot at it.”
Penn State also got a major decision from Seth Nevills (285) and decisions from Nick Lee (141), Luke Gardner (157) and Aaron Brooks (184).
Gardner’s appearance at 157 might be a preview of the postseason. Sanderson confirmed after the match that Brady Berge is done for the season. Berge wrestled just twice since sustaining a head injury in the U23 World Championships in late October. The coach said the staff would have to decide between Gardner and Bo Pipher who would be the 157-pounder postseason starter.
In more positive news, Sanderson said that Penn State is in line to host next season’s Big Ten Wrestling Championships, on March 6-7, 2021 at the Bryce Jordan Center. The Nittany Lions will next take the mat on March 7 at the 2020 Big Ten Wrestling Championships at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway, New Jersey.
No. 2 Penn State 40
(Sunday at University Park)
125: Gage Curry, AU, dec. Brandon Meredith, 4-2.
133: No. 2 Roman Bravo-Young, PSU, pinned Joshua Vega, 2:10.
141: No. 1 Nick Lee, PSU, dec. Sal Profaci, 7-3.
149: Jarod Verkleeren, PSU. Dec. No. 8 Kizhan Clarke, 3-1.
157: Luke Gardner, PSU, dec. Ethan Karsten, 7-5.
165: No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph, PSU, pinned Tim Fitzpatrick, 4:00.
174: No. 1 Mark Hall, PSU, pinned Anthony Wokasch, 2:33.
184: No. 6 Aaron Brooks, PSU, dec. Tanner Harvey, 8-5.
197: No. 18 Shakur Rasheed, PSU, pinned William Jarrell, 1:04.
285: No. 17 Seth Nevills, PSU, maj. Dec. Niko Camacho, 10-2.
Ridge Riley Award winner: Jarod Verkleeren, 149.
Referee: Nate Chapman.
Takedowns: American 3; Penn State 24.